Sunday, June 12, 2022

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Why Trauma Parents Burn Out

Why do trauma parents burn out? Is it because our children have a history of trauma and tend to Save Their Worst Behavior For Their Parents? Is it because the parents haven't Resolved Their Own TraumaWhile both of those things certainly affect us, I think the real reason many parent's burn out is because we are trying so hard.

Due to their past trauma, many of our children lie, cheat, steal and manipulate to protect themselves. We know that these method's of dealing with conflict and stress will become less and less acceptable as they grow older. 

So what do we do? We pour our whole heart and mind into helping our children heal. After all, we want them to have the privileges that go along with being responsible adults and we can clearly see the path they are on, is not conducive to such an end. 

Another therapy? Sure, even if insurance doesn't cover the cost. Even if it means the parent loses out on his one evening of quiet time a week. After all, we are doing this for our child and no price is too high to pay.

Another medication? Of course, even if it means you have to research and learn all the side affects your child may experience because of his particular needs. You dare not forget you are your child's advocate.

Keep your child by your side? You are willing to do so if might lead to a better relationship with your child. Never mind that if your child has an attachment disorder he will be angry and manipulate situation's to make it appear as though you are being unfair and unreasonable for requiring him to stay with you. If it helps him, you willingly keep him with you, no matter the price you have to pay.

Special Diet? Sure, even if it means spending hours researching and then still more hours in the kitchen cooking foods your child can eat.

Home School? If it means your child is more stable and secure, of course! Even if doing so means you never get a break, you are up for the challenge if it will help your child.

Another Psych Evaluation? If it will give answer's into why our child behave's negatively, we are willing to hand over several hundred dollar's. You cling to the thought that maybe this will provide the missing piece your child needs to continue healing.

Residential Treatment Center? If that is what my child need's to begin healing, absolutely! Even if it means traveling long hours for visits which cut back on family time or personal down time.

Guess who is supplying all the mental and emotional energy to provide all these things? The parents! What happens when these things aren't enough? They go back to the drawing board and arrange numbers, schedule's and research other options trying to find something, anything that will help their child. 

This scenario is repeated a multitude of time's, even this wouldn't be so difficult if the parents had support.

But they face doctor's who either don't believe it is as bad as the parents makes it sound, have no idea how to help, or are unable or unwilling to take the time and energy needed to figure out what is at the root of the child's issue's.

The therapist says, "Love him more, love cures all ill's."

People say, "Try this, it worked for a friend of mine." Or, "I told you this would happen if you don't give your child consequences."

And since you really, really want your child to succeed, you try things, even when you know they are futile. Because if/when your child get's into really hot water, you want to know you did your best no matter what the cost.

...and this is why trauma parents burn out. We are trying to do everything we can so our child has the best chance at healing and thriving, without ensuring we have the necessary support's in place to catch us when we become weary.

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Monday, March 12, 2018

You Are Not Required To Set Yourself On Fire To Keep Other People Warm - Trauma Parenting

Parenting is hard work. Looking after all the little details can make even the staunchest brain fizzle and sputter. When you add mental health issue's, trauma and brain challenges into the mix, things become even more complicated.

It is hard to feel as though you are a good parent when:

 - Due to developmental disabilities your child cannot associate with his peer's and as a result, spends his days feeling crushed and inferior. 

- Your child chronically lies to cope with the complexities of his world.

-  When because of past trauma, your child react's negatively to the love and nurture you long to pour upon him. To complicate matters, your child cannot, and will not, heal until he can accept nurture.

- When trauma has wired your child's brain to lash out at anyone who attempts to get close to him. As a result he is terrified to acknowledge that he cannot take care of himself. This means he spends his life feeling miserable and making his family miserable, because he is too scared to accept the help he needs.

- When screaming, raging, and destroying things are your child's primary language when he is faced with difficulties. He may scream because he can't find the milk, because his sock's "feel funny," because he doesn't know what he wants to eat for snack, or because life is simply overwhelming at the moment. When you have multiple children who react in this manner, remaining cheerful and upbeat can be a daunting task!

- When you don't know if your child truly doesn't understand your question or if he is "playing dumb" because he is feeling ornery and doesn't want to cooperate with you. "Parenting a child with attachment disorder feels like driving in the dark."

- When your child presents as a cheerful, well adjusted child outside the home, but is anything but behind closed doors.

- When your child feels the need to manipulate every interaction with you in order to control the relationship.

These things are just a sampling of what a trauma family may face in a day's time. Trying to meet our children's needs without taking on their trauma is tough. Don't ask me how one accomplishes this because I struggle in this area daily. 

This quote has helped me put things into perspective: "You are not required to set yourself on fire to keep other people warm." 

To often I feel like I have to do everything in my power, even if it means I am depleting my own resources, to ensure that my child has the chance to succeed. While this is necessary to a certain extent, I need to continually remind myself that if I burn out I will be unable to help my child. "You cannot pour from an empty vessel, neither can you nurture your hurting child when you aren't practicing self care."

So if you are parenting brain challenged children and feel like you never quite reach around; like you never quite reach your child's heart, remember to take care of yourself. This feels counter intuitive, but I am slowly learning that when I take care of myself I find it easier to meet my child's needs without joining in their trauma.

In conclusion:
"Occasionally, weep deeply, over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. trust God. And embrace the life you have." - John Piper

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Tuesday, March 6, 2018

9 Thing's Trauma Parents Need

We need people to listen. I sometimes fear I sound like a broken record when I share details of parenting brain challenged children. My children have various levels of trauma and brain damage so our lives are spent preventing behavior's. Sadly, we are finding that while our children grow physically, in a lot of ways their past trauma still has a huge impact on them.

We need empathy, not sympathy. A smile, encouraging word, or hug means so much. Don't feel sorry for us. We realize what a privilege it is to parent our precious children, but we sometime's lose sight of that. When we begin to feel that meeting their needs is more of a burden than a privilege, your kind words may be just what we need to help us get our thinking back on track.

We need friends who aren't in the trenches of trauma and brain abnormalities. It is healing to be able to unload your latest "poop fiasco," to a friend who can share her own horror stories in that arena, but we need friends with whom we can talk about everyday things like flowers, coffee and the latest book that just came out.

We need people who will encourage us to step out of our trauma life from time to time. It is so easy to get caught up in the chaos of day to day life that we forget to maintain relationships. Constantly having to think ahead to avert a melt downs drains my brain so that the thought of planning, going and doing seem's overwhelming. Then I just stay home. This isn't healthy.

We need people who won't give up on our friendship. I shudder to think of how many times I have forgotten to return a phone call, forgotten a birthday, forgotten an anniversary.... caring for brain challenged children is a full time job, but we still long to be connected with people. Sadly sometimes a full brain means we simply forget. A special thanks to all my wonderful friends out there who continue to include us, even though we are forgetful.

We need people to pray for us. I cannot count how many times I was sharing a particular struggle and a friend said, "I will be praying for you!" That means so much. I have two people who often assure me of their prayers. It makes me feel so unworthy! They have their own family's to care for, but they take the time to pray for us! What a gift!

We need people to acknowledge our pain.  When someone comes alongside you during a dark moment and says, "I see you doing hard things, and I just want you to know that I care," it somehow makes you feel as though you can climb mountains.``

We need people to remind us that God has a purpose and plan for both us and our children. It is easy to lose sight of the fact that there is a reason for the struggle's we face. We need to be reminded that even though it feels as though we are losing ground, God is in control.

We need a break. Getting a babysitter can be tough, but there are times when you need some time away from the chaos to regroup and refresh your brain.

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Thursday, March 1, 2018

An Answer For Those Who Offer Unhelpful Parenting Advice - Trauma Parenting

Recently Oregon Behavior Consultation asked parents with special needs children to share the advice people have given them regarding their child's behavior. They took those comments and made a video entitled, What Not To Say To Parents Of Kids With Challenging Behaviors. It is awesome! I have heard most of the comments in one form or another over the years. Sometimes I can let it roll off my back, other times not so much. 

A comment from this video clarified some things for me. Nate mentions that the reason these comments hurt so badly is because we parents are already trying so hard to do the right thing for our child. I agree with that 100%. The parent of a child with special need's faces huge challenges every day. We constantly second guess ourselves and hope we are doing what is best for our child. We don't always know what is the best response to an action, or even if what we have seen warrants a consequence or grace. Professional's will tell you that there is no cut and dried method of parenting a child with special needs because so many things play into the situation. Things such as trauma, living situation and family relationships to name only a few.

To complicate things, every child is so different, especially when you add in brain challenges, that many days we feel as though we are whirling in circle's, but fear we are never quite meeting anyone's needs. We are doing our best to stay on top of all the pressing demands, but slowly, ever so slowly losing ground. To have someone come in and tell a parent who is nearly sinking that they should just try ___________, is akin to adding a sack of bricks to the already heavy burden they carry.

Thankfully Oregon Behavioral Consultation added a video you can send to family and friends to help them better understand why you appear to be such a strict or easy going parent, depending upon the situation. Here it is: Why DO Kids And Teens Have Challenging Behaviors?

One comment from this video, portrayed what I have a difficult time finding the words to describe: People seem to think their experience with my child is my child's baseline. Exactly! What a brilliant explanation. That, in a nutshell explains what I struggle so hard to help people understand. The child you see is very different from the child I know. The child you see is either on high alert, melting down, oozing with sweetness or ________ to name a few, none of which show my child's true baseline.

The child you see misbehaving, is acting that way for reasons that may not be readily apparent. When in the presence of our immediate family, he presents very differently. This means you are not seeing my child true self. The same goes for the child who presents as super sweet and kind. That isn't my child's true self either, he is putting on a front and manipulating you. This is why our parenting looks inconsistent. We appear to be to lenient with some children, while being too strict with others. The fact is, the behavior you see is not the my child's true behavior. You will only see my child's true self if you live with us and become a permanent member of our family.

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Saturday, February 24, 2018

In The Realm Of Hungry Ghosts; Close Encounters With Addiction - Book Review

I have long been fascinated by psychology. Learning why we as humans do the things we do or respond in a given way intrigue's me. I recently bought the book, In The Realm Of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction, by Gabor Mate'. 

The author takes a close look at the roots of addiction and how they play out in the lives of people in various situations. If illicit drugs and/or alcohol are what comes to mind when you think of addiction, this book will show you how most everyone, you and I included, struggle with addiction in one form or another.

Gabor begins the book by sharing the stories of those who struggle with addiction. He explain's how poor prenatal health, childhood trauma and our way of coping with stress all impact our propensity towards addiction. The stories touched me because they sounded oh, so familiar.

- Vulnerability is our susceptibility to be wounded. This fragility is part of our nature and cannot be avoided or escaped. 

-Imprinted in the developing brain circuitry of the child subject to abuse or neglect is fear and distrust of powerful people, especially of caregivers. In time this ingrained wariness is reinforced by negative experiences with authority figures such as teachers, foster parents, and members of the legal system or the medical profession. Whenever I adapt a sharp tone with one of my clients, display indifference, or attempt some well meant coercion for her benefit, I unwittingly take on the features of the powerful ones who first wounded and frightened her decades ago. Whatever my intentions, I end up invoking fear and pain. 

- ... patients need for tranquilizers says much about their infancy and early childhood.  

- People who have difficulty forming intimate relationships are at risk for addiction; they may turn to drugs as social lubricants.

- People are susceptible to the addiction process if they have a constant need to fill their minds or bodies with external sources of  comfort, whether physical or emotional. That need expresses a failure of self regulation - an inability to maintain a reasonably stable internal emotional atmosphere.

- People who cannot find or receive love need to find substitutes - and that's where addictions come in.

- The person with poor self-regulation is more likely to look outside herself for emotional soothing, which is why lack of attunement in infancy increases addiction risk.

- The void (in a child's heart) is not in the parents love or commitment , but in the child's perception of being seen, understood, empathized with, and "gotten" on the emotional level. 

- As a rule whatever we don't deal with in our lives we pass on to our children. Our unfinished emotional business becomes theirs.

- When I am sharply judgmental of  of any other person, it's because I sense or see reflected in them some aspect of myself that I don't want to acknowledge. 

- We avert our eyes from the hard core drug addict not only to avoid ourselves; we do so to avoid facing our share of the responsibility as well.

- As we have seen, injection drug use more often than not arises in people who were abused and neglected as young children. The addict, in other words, is not born but made. His addiction is the result of a situation that he had no influence in creating.

The words in italics are direct quote's from the book. It is not my intention to take away from the authors writing, or misrepresent it in any way. Since this is a book review, I only shared quotes and not my thoughts. Look for upcoming blog posts on many of the quotes shared here.

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Thursday, February 22, 2018

How To Begin Bonding With A Traumatized Toddler

The first months and years of a child's life are critical for building the foundations on which they which they will construct relationships for the remainder of their lives.

When you bring a toddler into your home he may have experienced Prenatal Trauma and will have almost certainly experienced trauma in one form or another during the first months and years of his life. If he hasn't, being removed from the people whom he loves, can easily cause trauma. Trauma is an experience so overwhelming that the brain cannot process what is happening, leaving the individual to suffer from triggers until such a time as he can process the experience. 

Many people erroneously assume that a child who is neglected, abused or has experienced a chaotic home life, will be thankful to be removed from the people who caused, or failed to prevent his suffering. A child depends on those who have neglected/abused him to provide for his basic needs. On one hand he loves/needs these people, on the other hand they hurt him. Imagine how confusing this must be!

If you have adopted or are thinking of adopting a toddler, I highly recommend the book, Toddler Adoption, The Weaver's Craft. In the meantime, here are some things you can do:

- Parent your toddler as you would an infant. You cannot spoil a traumatized toddler by going the extra mile to make sure his need's are met. At this time it is better to err on the side of too much nurture, something that is nearly impossible to do at this stage, rather than thinking, "But what if I spoil him?"

Maslow's Hierarchy Of Needs, show's that as humans, we have a basic level of need's. For various reason's many foster/adopted children have missed several of these steps. In order for a child to mature into a an emotionally, stable individual, he will have to experience each level, in order. This means that when a toddler comes into your home it is vital that you start at the base of the pyramid, then move onto the next level's. I want to note that the second level, that of safety, must include Felt Safety.

- Many toddler's are independent beyond their years due to their need to care for themselves. Sometimes as in our son's case, they also cared for younger siblings. Our son was incredibly independent. He became very upset when we tried to help him with something, so we parented him as one would a well attached toddler; we left him take care of himself. In hindsight that was the not at all what he needed.

- Toddler's who are placed in care or adopted often experience intense rages and meltdowns as the attempt to navigate their new world while trying to make sense of what has happened. Per our caseworker's advice, we put our son in time out. One minute for each year of age. Unknown to us we were only exacerbating his Alarm Of Separation. After we learned about TBRI we began practicing Time In versus time out, with much better result's.

In simple word's NURTURE that child. 
DO: love and nurture him, let him be a baby. Let him have things to soothe him be it a blanket, toy or Nuk.

DON'T: Try to make him act his age. He may be a toddler physically, but deep inside he is still just a baby.

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